Friday, May 29, 2015

Sorry! There Is No ONE Thing!

Warning! Beware of board members, CEOs, consultants, self-proclaimed governance experts (or any warm body clutching Robert’s Rules of Order) who would pontificate, “There is just ONE key to effective governance.”

Sorry. There is no ONE thing. 

• 3 Hats. There are at least three important hats every board member wears—not one. More info at: ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 2: Balancing Board Roles: Understanding the 3 Hats: Governance, Volunteer, Participant.

• 5 Questions. Peter Drucker says there are at least five questions that boards must address, including: “Who is our customer?” and “What does our customer value?” Read: The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization.

• 10 Responsibilities. BoardSource reminds us that there are 10 responsibilities of nonprofit boards, including the need to assess, monitor and strengthen programs and services.  Read: Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards.

• 12 Best Practices. Former foundation executive Dave Coleman preaches that boards must focus on 12 key areas, not just one. His fifth essential: “Boards have an effective CEO/Board Chair partnership.” Read: Board Essentials—12 Best Practices of Nonprofit Boards. Plus! The helpful Christ-centered book, Best Practices for Effective Boards (Fairbanks, Gunter, and Cauchenour) also has 12 best practices, including: “Board members are outstanding examples of giving regularly and sacrificially to the church, college, or organization they serve.”

• 14 Board Questions. Prolific governance author and guru, Ram Charan, eloquently convinced me that there are 14 critical questions for boards, including my favorite, “Does our board really own the [organization’s] strategy?” Read: Owning Up: The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask.

• 20 Buckets. While I see management positioned on a carefully balanced three-legged stool of Cause, Community, and Corporation—I believe a staff/board team must master 20 critical competencies. The “Board Bucket” is just one, but a critical one. Read: Mastering the Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Nonprofit

• 33 Principles. Really…there are more? Just this year, Independent Sector announced their list of 33 principles. The short version is available free as a two-page PDF.  The 86-page reference edition, Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice: A Guide for Charities and Foundations, is sold online. More info here.

• 85 Answers.  (We’re almost done!) BoardSource’s third edition of their board answer book now includes 85 questions and short answers. (The first edition was co-authored by Ted Engstrom and Bob Andringa.) This helpful guide has seven major categories, 85 topics, and 363 pages. If you’re looking for one of the big ideas in board service, Question 9 is a good place to start: “How does the board avoid the extremes of ‘rubber stamping’ and micromanaging?” Read: The Nonprofit Board Answer Book: A Practical Guide for Board Members and Chief Executives.

My recommendation: the Bible has the first and the final say on the keys to effective governance. One Great Commission (the mission), nine fruits of the spirit (core values), 10 commandments (character), 66 books—and a lifetime of learning how to walk in wisdom. Psalm 119:105 (NIV): “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” 

QUESTION: As a board, how should we discern the key essentials of effective Christ-centered governance? What’s the risk if we don’t have this discussion?

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